Season on line for Central, Centennial
CHAMPAIGN – Rivals on the field, the football teams from Centennial and Champaign Central have plenty in common this week.
Once thought to be safely lodged in the playoff picture, both 4-4 teams have suffered through losing periods recently. Central has dropped two straight; Centennial is 1-4 after a 3-0 start.
When they square off in the Battle of Champaign at 6:30 p.m. Friday, they'll fight for the same prizes. The winner is crowned Twin City champion, claims city bragging rights and, in all likelihood, is bound for the playoffs. The loser goes home.
Both squads had high expectations before the season; neither expected to face a win-or-else situation in Week 9. So the outcome might hinge on which team can heal its bruised psyche the quickest, and whether one team will find it hard to get off the mat if it falls behind early in the game.
Both coaches say their teams should be ready for the showdown.
"I feel good about it," Central's Dave Jacobs said. "Last week I thought our kids played hard, (Danville) just outplayed us."
Centennial coach Mike McDonnell said the Chargers have maintained a confident approach despite the recent struggles. And if they need a boost, they always can look to last season. Centennial dropped two in a row before beating the Maroons 30-7 in the regular season finale.
"I think they understand some of the reasons we came up short in some of those games," McDonnell said. "You can talk about injuries, about eligibility, about a whole bunch of things. We had to overcome some things, and some weeks we did, some weeks we didn't. I think they understand (we're) the same football team that brought it to Normal Community pretty well for three quarters and basically gave them three plays in the entire football game. I think they're confident enough to go out and play."
Centennial rests with the knowledge that it has owned the series of late. The Chargers have not lost the Battle since 2000. That fact, however, likely ensures that Central will be eager to play.
Jacobs said a primary objective is to get the Maroons in the same frame of mind the team employed in a victory against Bloomington.
"I don't think we have to worry about them being flat," Jacobs said. "It's probably at the other end – worry about them being too excited and not doing what they're supposed to be doing. We have to find a happy medium between that.
"We've talked about having fun but having focus. That's when we're at our best; when we can play loose and be focused."
A Centennial victory likely would land the Chargers in the Class 6A playoff bracket, announced Saturday night. Central, however, might wind up in 5A with a win. Based on current projections by the IHSA – and pending Friday's results – Central would be the smallest school in the Class 6A bracket.